Depression can be a vicious cycle. And often times it can feel permanent and everlasting.
It can feel like there is no way of breaking it because, everywhere we are and in everything we do, it lurks within the shadows of our existence. It is almost as if we are carrying all of this emotional baggage with us wherever we go, all of the time.
But like all events, depression is experienced moment-by-moment. Therefore it is always moving and changing – and we often experience different ups and downs even while depressed – we just happen to conceptualize it as one big “glob of gloom.”
Depression can come and go in anyone’s life. And sometimes it doesn’t mean you have something wrong with your brain, only that you are going through a phase in your life right now.
Sometimes, depression is just a stepping stone in life that we have to go through and learn from to get to the next stage of our lives. Here’s how to take advantage of this type of depression and even allow it to improve your life.
Gratitude towards depression
Why be grateful for our negative emotions and suffering?
It sounds a bit counter-intuitive – but perhaps that is part of why you have not been able to let go of these feelings for the past few weeks, months, or years. You have not yet fully accepted them, and you have not opened your eyes to the wisdom your mind and body are trying to reveal.
There is something to be grateful for in regards to all emotions, not just positive ones. If none of us ever experienced suffering or depression or loneliness from time-to-time, we would never know when we are moving in the wrong direction, and we would never adapt properly to changing circumstances.
Negative emotions are a signal worth paying attention to – and they can often teach us how to navigate throughout our lives.
Depression can motivate us towards growth
When I was depressed several years ago my life turned completely grey. I can swear that when I look back at those times there was no color in my world at all. There was no brightness or zest for life, just dullness and apathy.
It was my first year in college. I had no friends around. And being the incredibly introverted person that I was, it was difficult to make contact with anyone. I became a recluse, and I didn’t like it.
Being roommate-less and alone, I only left the vacancy of my dorm for two reasons: classes and food.
At least during those times when I left my dorm I was around people. But the most discomforting moments were the times laying in my bed, unable to sleep, and thinking how much longer this could last before I would have to end my life. When the thought first entered my mind I was shocked. I never considered myself someone who could end their own existence. “Do I even have the guts to do it?” I would ask myself.
It is within these deep states of contemplation where a catalyst for change can often emerge. I knew I had only a few choices: run away forever, die, or mend things back up and strive for something better in life.
View depression from a different perspective
The evolutionary role of negative states like depression are to get us to step back, think, and try to solve a problem in our lives.
At least, that is how my depression worked for me. My depression felt everlasting – I felt powerless – but when I dived into those feelings, thoughts, and memories, and I explored them, I noticed that my mind was trying to tell me something. It was telling me, “something has to change, this current path is unsustainable and you need to find what dissatisfies you so that you can overcome it.”
In this sense, my depression triggered a process of self-transformation.
Thus I began to search for answers. I turned my depression into a journey. I began reading about psychology and self improvement, and the different ways I could begin turning my life around.
I started “reframing” all of my problems into opportunities for growth, even my depression itself:
“My depression didn’t have to last forever, it was just the first step towards happiness.”
This new way of seeing my depression sparked something in my brain and blew my mind wide open to new possibilities.
The concept of “non-duality” and interconnectedness
I want to now touch on a more philosophical concept. Please take a minute or two to reflect on the Taoist concept of the “yin-yang:”
It is an amazing visualization on the play of opposites in our daily life.
On the dark side there is a bit of light, and on the light side there is a bit of dark. I think this very strongly alludes to the concept of nonduality that is so prevalent in eastern philosophy. The concept is meant to illustrate that while two things may seem distinct and separate, they are actually intimately interconnected.
Instead of thinking of depression as a separate entity to happiness, we should see them as part of a single continuum. We can’t experience one without experience the other. These are the inevitable ups and downs that are a part of growth.
You can apply this concept to an array of ideas in regards to your mind and psychology:
- Depression is the first step towards happiness.
- Ignorance is the first step towards knowledge.
- Confusion is the first step towards understanding.
- Anxiety is the first step towards confidence.
- Hate is the first step towards love.
- Laziness is the first step towards motivation.
These are just some ways we can reframe negative states as positive ones. I find looking at these negative states from this perspective helps me become more resilient and overcome these phases in my life more easily and quicker.
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